Beef and Mushroom Tacos with Avocado Salad

beef and mushroom tacos 
I never get tired of Mexican inspired food, especially tacos and enchiladas, and I was excited to try a new variation. Although my kids definitely would have preferred these without the mushrooms, Mike and I really enjoyed them. I loved the cool avocado salad with the warm mushroom and beef mixture and added a little shredded Monterrey Jack cheese on top...YUM! (recipe from Rachael Ray)

* 3 T olive oil
* 1 pound ground beef
* 1 onion, thinly sliced
* 2 jalapeƱo chiles—stemmed, seeded and finely chopped
* Salt and pepper
* 2 avocados, cut into cubes
* 1/4 cup fresh lime juice (1 1/2 limes)
* 8 ounces sliced white mushrooms
* 3 cloves garlic, thinly sliced
* 8 small flour tortillas (I used corn)

1. In a large skillet, heat 2 tablespoons olive oil over medium-high heat. Add the beef, half of the onion and the jalapeƱos; season with salt and pepper. Cook until the beef is browned and the onion is softened, 7 to 10 minutes. Transfer to a bowl; reserve the skillet.
2. Meanwhile, in a large bowl, combine the remaining onion, the avocados and lime juice; season with salt and pepper.
3. In the reserved skillet, heat the remaining 1 tablespoon olive oil over medium heat. Add the mushrooms and garlic, season with salt and pepper and cook until golden, 7 to 9 minutes; stir into the beef mixture and cover with foil to keep warm.
4. Wipe out the skillet and return to medium heat. Working with 1 tortilla at a time, lightly toast on both sides for about 1 minute. Stuff the tortillas with the beef mixture and avocado salad.

Smothered Pork Chops

smothered pork chops 
This meal from Mel's Kitchen Cafe made for a perfect Sunday dinner! Everyone once in awhile I'm ready for a good old meat and potatoes meal and the fact that this could be cooking in the crock pot while we were at church was perfect. I didn't love the crumbled bacon on top, too much meat for me, but otherwise they delicious, especially paired with mashed potatoes.

5 slices bacon, chopped
6 bone-in pork loin chops, about 3/4-inch thick
Salt and Pepper
2 yellow onions, peeled, halved and sliced into 1/2-inch thick half moons
1 teaspoon plus 1 tablespoon light brown sugar
1/4 cup plus 2 tablespoons cold water
3 garlic cloves, minced
1 teaspoon dried thyme
3 cups low-sodium chicken broth
1 tablespoon soy sauce
2 bay leaves
1 tablespoon cornstarch
1 tablespoon cider vinegar
2 tablespoons fresh parsley, chopped

In a large skillet over medium heat, fry bacon until lightly browned, about 5-6 minutes. Transfer bacon to a plate lined with paper towels, leaving the drippings in the pan. If you have more than 2 tablespoons drippings, drain the excess. If you don’t have quite that much, supplement with canola oil. When the bacon is cool, transfer to a small bag and refrigerate until later.

Heat the skillet with the drippings over medium or medium-high heat until rippling and hot. Meanwhile, pat pork chops dry with paper towels and sprinkle with salt and pepper. Cook pork chops until they are golden brown on each side, about 2 minutes per side, cooking them in batches in the skillet if your skillet isn’t big enough to hold all six at a time in a single layer. When golden on each side, transfer the chops to the slow cooker and repeat with remaining pork.
Pour off all but 1 teaspoon of fat from the skillet; add onions, 1 teaspoon brown sugar, 1/4 teaspoon salt and 1/4 cup water to empty skillet. Using a wooden spoon, scrape browned bits from bottom of the pan and cook over medium-high heat until onions are soft, about 4-6 minutes. Stir in garlic and thyme and cook until fragrant, about 30 seconds. Pour onion mixture over chops in the slow cooker. Add broth, soy sauce and remaining 1 tablespoon brown sugar to skillet, bring to a boil and add bay leaves. Pour mixture over onions in slow cooker.

Cover slow cooker and cook on low until pork is tender, about 8 hours (or cook on high for 4 hours).

When ready to serve, carefully transfer chops to serving platter with a large spoon and tent with foil. Discard bay leaves and pour liquid through a mesh strainer into a saucepan, reserving the solids. Transfer solids to a food processor or blender with 1 cup liquid and blend until smooth. Stir the blended mixture back into remaining liquid in the saucepan. In a small bowl, mix cornstarch and remaining 2 tablespoons water together in a small bowl and stir into sauce. Cook over medium heat until thickened and bubbly, about 5 minutes. Stir in vinegar, season with salt and pepper, pour over chops and sprinkle with reserved bacon and parsley. Serve.

Mediterranean Spring Bowls

mediterranean bowl
As soon as I saw these bowls on Favorite Family Recipes I couldn't wait to try them! They incorporate so many things we love and they didn't disappoint. It was fun to add some new and different flavors from our usual southwestern fare and I couldn't stop eating it! (there is lots of garlic, so be sure everyone eats some so you don't kill each other with your breath!) (it's a copy cat of White House Grill, but I have never been there so I'm not sure how it compares)

1 bottle Lawry’s lemon pepper marinade
2 chicken breast halves (I used 3)
lemon pepper
1 onion, diced
1 medium-sized zucchini, diced
1 green bell pepper, diced
1/2 c. garbanzo beans (I forgot to get these so left them out)
12-15 cherry (or grape) tomatoes
feta cheese (used reduced fat)
For the rice:
1 c. long-grain, white rice
2 c. water
3 Tbsp. olive oil
juice of 2 lemons
4-5 cloves garlic, crushed (I used 6)
1/2 tsp. pepper
salt (to taste)

Marinate chicken breast halves in lemon pepper marinade for at least an hour (sealed tightly in a plastic Ziploc bag works best). Remove chicken and discard marinade. Place chicken in a 9x13 glass baking dish and sprinkle with lemon pepper on both sides. Bake at 350-degrees for about 35 min or until juices run clear and chicken is completely cooked through. While chicken is cooking, heat a little bit of oil in a large skillet. Add diced onion, zucchini, bell pepper, and garbanzo beans. Saute until onions become clear. Add tomatoes and saute an additional minute or so until tomatoes become hot.
Chop up cooked chicken into smaller pieces and stir in with sauteed veggies.
For the rice:
Cook rice with water according to package instructions (or in a rice cooker). After the rice is cooked, combine remaining ingredients (from olive oil on...) and pour slowly over rice while fluffing with a fork. Add more lemon juice a little at a time if needed.
To serve: (I put it all in one big serving bowl this time)
Put a scoop or two of rice on a plate (or in a bowl). Add sauteed veggies and chicken. Top each bowl with about 2 Tbsp. feta cheese (or to taste).

Asparagus Carbonara

asparagus carbonara
I loved the asparagus in this Rachael Ray pasta dish...and the garlic! It was pretty light and a great summer dinner, not to mention a yummy lunch the next day. I'll sub turkey bacon next time to keep it lighter.

* 2 large eggs
* 2/3 cup grated Parmesan cheese
* 3/4 pound spaghetti (I used gluten-free)
* 1 bunch asparagus, halved lengthwise and cut crosswise into 2-inch pieces
* 2 tablespoons extra-virgin olive oil
* 5 slices bacon, coarsely chopped
* 3 cloves garlic, finely chopped
* 1/4 cup dry white wine (or chicken broth)
* Salt and pepper

1. In a large bowl, beat together the eggs and cheese. In a large pot of boiling, salted water, cook the pasta until al dente, adding the asparagus during the last minute of cooking. Drain, reserving 1/2 cup of the cooking water. Add the hot pasta and asparagus to egg mixture; toss to coat.
2. Meanwhile, in a large skillet, heat the olive oil over medium heat. Add the bacon and cook until crisp, stir in the garlic. Add the wine and cook until slightly reduced, about 1 minute. Stir the bacon mixture into the pasta, adding enough of the reserved pasta water to moisten; season with salt and pepper.

Chocolate Chip Zucchini Bread and many more

zucchini bread 1
While in a doctor's waiting room I was excited to find the May 2011 issue of the Food Network magazine to look through. I LOVED this page of mix and match ingredients that you can use to make any type of bread you want. We used zucchini, chocolate chips and walnuts (and skipped a glaze) but I plan to try many more combinations!
Preheat oven to 350 degrees. Lightly butter one 9x5 inch loaf pan or three 6x3 inch mini pans.
For the batter:
Mix 1 1/4 c flour, 3/4 c sugar, 1 t each baking powder and salt, and 1/2 t each baking soda, cinnamon and nutmeg in a large bowl; add your dry mix-ins (from step 2).
In a medium bowl, whisk 2 eggs, 1/2 c cooled melted butter or vegetable oil, 1/2 c plain yogurt or sour cream, 1 t vanilla extract and 1 citrus zest (optional).
Stir your fruit or vegetables (from step 1) into the egg mixture, then fold into the dry mixture until just combined.
Spread the batter in the prepared pan(s). Bake until a toothpick inserted into the center comes out clean, about 55 minutes for a standard loaf, 35-40 min for mini loaves. Cool 30 minutes in the pan on the rack, then turn out onto the rack to cool completely.

Mexican Skillet Rice

mexican skillet rice 
This is another recipe from Taste of Home that I really loved. The rest of the family wasn't as fond of it (Mike doesn't love skillet meals period), but I have been eating for nearly every meal for 3 days. I love the roasted red peppers in it and the egg makes it seem like a Mexican stir-fry...Yum! It is good served as-is, put in tortillas like a burrito, and with chips too. I love that you only get one pot dirty while preparing and that it saves so well. You could probably freeze half of it too.

* 1 egg, beaten
* 1 pound chicken tenderloins, chopped (I used 1 can chicken, drained)
* 1 small onion, chopped
* 1 tablespoon olive oil
* 2 garlic cloves, minced
* 2 cups cooked jasmine or long grain rice (I used jasmine)
* 1 can (15 ounces) black beans, rinsed and drained
* 1 can (11 ounces) Mexicorn, drained
* 1 jar (7 ounces) roasted sweet red peppers, drained and sliced
* 1 jar (8 ounces) taco sauce (I used medium)
* 2 green onions, chopped
* 1/4 cup minced fresh cilantro

* In a large skillet coated with cooking spray, cook and stir egg over medium-high heat until set. Remove and set aside.
* In the same skillet, stir-fry chicken and onion in oil until chicken is no longer pink. Add garlic; cook 1 minute longer. Stir in the rice, beans, Mexicorn, peppers, taco sauce and green onions; heat through. Stir in reserved egg. Sprinkle rice with cilantro. Yield: 6 servings.

Cracker-and-Parmesan-Crusted Fish Fillets

cracker fish
This Rachael Ray recipe for breading fish was my favorite yet I think. It turned out crunchy and light tasting and was packed with subtle flavors. It was a huge hit with the whole family!

* 1 cup oyster crackers (I used saltines)
* 1/3 cup Ritz crackers, a generous handful
* 3/4 cup parmigiano-reggiano cheese
* 1/3 cup flat-leaf parsley leaves
* 3 tablespoons chopped fresh chives
* 2 tablespoons fresh thyme leaves (I used 1 t dried thyme)
* 1 tablespoon Old Bay seasoning (I used Tony's Creole)
* 1 teaspoon garlic powder or granulated garlic
* Flour, for coating
* 2 large eggs, beaten
* Splash heavy cream or half-and-half (I used 2% milk)
* Extra-virgin olive oil (EVOO), for frying
* 4 sole or tilapia fillets, rinsed and patted dry (I used some tilapia and some catfish)
* Salt and pepper
* Lemon wedges, for serving

1. Using a food processor, grind the oyster crackers, Ritz crackers, parmigiano-reggiano, parsley, chives, thyme, Old Bay seasoning and garlic powder, if using. Transfer to a shallow bowl. Place the flour in another shallow bowl. In a third shallow bowl, beat the eggs and cream.
2. Fill a large skillet with enough EVOO to reach a depth of 1/4 inch and heat over medium-high heat. Preheat the oven to 200°. Season the fish fillets with salt and pepper. Coat the fish with the flour, shaking off any excess; coat with the egg mixture, then with the cracker crumbs. Working with 2 fillets at a time, fry the fish in the skillet, turning once, until deep golden, about 5 minutes. Transfer each batch to the oven to keep warm.

Backyard Red Potato Salad

backyard red potato salad 
I love potatoes and I love potato salad...especially when I don't have to feel quite so guilty eating it :-). This recipe was submitted to Taste of Home and I really liked it. I didn't grill the potatoes though, I just put them on our roasting pan in the oven at 450 degrees for about 10 min and then broiled them a little to brown them. It was delicious! Next time I'll put a little less dressing on them.

* 2-1/2 pounds small red potatoes
* 1 medium onion, cut into 1/2-inch slices
* 1/2 cup olive oil, divided
* 1 teaspoon salt, divided
* 1/2 teaspoon pepper, divided
* 3 tablespoons balsamic vinegar
* 2 tablespoons lemon juice
* 1 tablespoon Dijon mustard
* 2 teaspoons sugar
* 2 garlic cloves, minced
* 1/4 cup minced fresh tarragon

* Place potatoes in a large saucepan and cover with water. Bring to a boil. Reduce heat; cover and cook for 10 minutes. Drain; cool slightly. Cut each in half.
* In a large bowl, combine the potatoes, onion, 1/4 cup oil, 1/2 teaspoon salt and 1/4 teaspoon pepper; toss to coat. Arrange cut sides down on a grilling grid; place on a grill rack. Grill, covered, over medium heat for 8-10 minutes or until vegetables are tender and lightly browned, turning occasionally. Chop onion. Place onion and potatoes in bowl.
* In a small bowl, whisk the vinegar, lemon juice, mustard, sugar, garlic and remaining oil, salt and pepper. Add to potato mixture; toss to coat. Sprinkle with tarragon. Serve warm or at room temperature. Refrigerate leftovers. Yield: 9 servings.
Editor's Note: If you do not have a grilling grid, use a disposable foil pan. Poke holes in the bottom of the pan with a meat fork to allow any liquid to drain.

Balsamic Chicken

balsamic chicken
After the end of the school year and just getting back from vacation I'm ready to get back to my meal-planning and cooking again! This was the last new recipe we tried that I never got around to blogging about. I had seen it posted a few times on Melissa's Bargains weekly menu but when I saw it also had good reviews on Favorites, I decided I better give it a try. Of course, the fact it was an easy crock pot meal helped in my decision too. It was easy and flavorful and light. I also LOVED the tanginess and the fact that my kitchen didn't get hot making it!

4 Boneless Skinless Chicken Breast Halves – approx. 1.5 to 2 lbs.
½ C. Olive Oil
½ – 1 C. Balsamic Vinegar – depending on how tangy you like the recipe (I used 1/2 c and it was plenty for us)
1 large can of diced tomatoes (I took this to mean a big 28 oz can)
1 can tomato sauce (I used an 8 oz can)
3-4 cloves of garlic minced or pressed
2 t. crushed dry oregano

Combine all ingredients in Crockpot. Cook on low for 6-8 hours. Shred chicken with a fork and serve chicken and sauce over rice or angel hair pasta. The consistency and taste of the sauce is sweet and tangy like an Italian barbeque sauce.